California Legislature Seeks to Revise Foster Care Bill of Rights

June 29, 2019 Updated: July 2, 2019

SACRAMENTO—Assembly Bill 175 continues to make rounds in the California Legislature, where the bill has undergone multiple revisions. Introduced on Jan. 8, AB 175 attempts to revise California’s Foster Care Bill of Rights, changing the rights of foster children.

Assemblymember Mike Gipson (D-Carson), the bill’s author, commented at a hearing for the bill that “Assembly Bill 175 will add rights related to cultural competent care, access to computer technology, privacy, and respect toward LGBT status and gender identity.”

Gipson said he believes it’s time to update the Foster Care Bill of Rights for California, as the bill of rights hasn’t been updated since 2001.

While the bill appears to establish more rights for foster children, the bill’s resulting restrictions on foster parents and families has received concern from members of the community.

The Epoch Times reached out to Greg Burt, director of Capitol Engagement at California Family Council, to discuss the bill and concerns it brings.

Burt explained that bill asks foster parents to affirm LGBT identities to young foster children, which would go against the beliefs held by parents of religious faith.

“There are parents who are religiously motivated. Christians who desire to serve young orphans and people who don’t have a family and provide them with a family, and they are motivated by their faith,” said Burt.

“Now the State of California is saying, well, we don’t want you [people of faith] anymore. Your beliefs about gender disqualify you from being a foster care parent.”

Part of the concern regarding AB 175 lies with the fact that the bill is violating foster parents’ First Amendment rights to free speech and religion, which would deter potential foster parents from caring for or adopting a child.

Gipson believes the bill will encourage more people to become foster parents. However, AB 175 adds multiple new “rights” related to affirming LGBT gender identities, which would remove people of faith from being eligible foster parents.

In the United States, the number of children waiting to be placed in a foster family already exceeds the number of available and willing foster parents and families.

According to the Adoption and Foster Care Analysis and Reporting System (AFCARS), the number of children waiting for a foster family is on the rise. In 2017, there were 123,437 children waiting to be adopted compared to the 102,808 children waiting in 2013.

Burt explained that a foster parent’s role is to nurture and guide a foster child, but AB 175 places restrictions on what foster parents can and cannot say or do.

According to the bill’s text, foster children are able to “make, send, and receive confidential telephone calls and other electronic communications, and to send and receive unopened mail, unless prohibited by court order.”

Burt explained that rules such as this one put foster children at greater risk of danger, while limiting the amount of influence a foster parent has over the child. This rule essentially allows foster care kids to communicate with anyone they want with no monitoring from their foster parents, while putting the children at greater risk of trafficking and online predators.

The bill also states that foster children can “at any age, to consent to or decline services regarding contraception, pregnancy, and perinatal care, including, but not limited to, abortion services and health care services for sexual assault without the knowledge or consent of any adult.”

Many of new rules and “rights” AB 175 adds to the Foster Care Bill of Rights state that foster children are allowed to make decisions “without the knowledge or consent of any adult.”

Studies show that foster children are at greater risk of mental and physical health problems and traffickers compared to children who aren’t in foster care. Limiting foster parents’ ability to monitor and guide foster children will put the children at even greater risk.

“If they [foster children] can be abused and used by traffickers, and no one has to know they’re getting abortions, that they’re being given any kind of treatment regarding sexual assault, I don’t know how that’s suppose to protect these young kids,” said Burt.

AB 175 is currently in the California State Senate Committee on Human Services, and is scheduled for another hearing on June 24.